Hydrogen powered cars in CA next year

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Re: Hydrogen powered cars in CA next year

Postby Cherokee Solar » Sat Nov 23, 2013 5:31 pm

Smurf1976 wrote:Disconnect the power lines to the site (which would still be live due to other power stations in the grid) then we can use conventional fire fighting methods and equipment to put the fire out.


As an ex volunteer CFA firefighter they often remind you that the smoke from a bushfire can conduct electricity from high voltage transmission lines to Earth. There are some pretty large transmission lines between the generators and Melbourne in Kinglake that were in the path of the Black Saturday fires back in Feb 09. Not good.

Even trees connecting with a small SWER line will take current to earth via the tree and not trip the fault detectors. I have seen and heard this first-hand and we just had to stand back and watch and hear the current flow through the tree, whilst setting off a fire at the same time... Approach with caution. It took about 40 minutes before the power was disconnected from that particular SWER line.

I agree that the nuclear waste / black swan / retirement of the nuclear plant problem has not been adequately addressed. I suspect that in the future some areas will be no go zones whilst the fuel rods decay and there wont be anything that anyone can do about it. It probably wont matter for plants and animals that have short lives though.

Smurf1976 wrote:Suffice to say I see both sides - ideally I'd like the bush left "as is" from a purely personal and nature conservation perspective.


I understand where you are coming from as I live in the bush and see it everyday. The farm here is also open to all of the wildlife and plants from the local area and they enjoy it and benefit from it. However, the opposing point of view is that the bush is a dynamic, resilient and constantly changing and adapting environment as distinct from a fixed state - at least it is here in the central highlands of Victoria.

There is no easy answer to your observation, but I respect it. I've spent quite a lot of time in Tasmania and appreciate the different rates of change in your eco-systems too than here. The west coast is nothing short of spectacular.

conklinc wrote:The lake has been low for years and years now. Has any of Tassie's hydro had that issue? The Snowy River Scheme?


Yes. I believe the Snowy River Scheme was throttled back earlier this year due to the extended five month drought experienced in Victoria. It didn't actually rain here significantly at the farm between October 12 and February 13 which is virtually unprecedented. It was a very tough time, especially with the constant wind and high temperatures.

conklinc wrote: Lake Powell is a recreational cesspool thanks to the houseboats.


Yeah, for some strange reason houseboats dump effluent straight into their waterways. Several hundred years ago when germ theory was not understood, people used to drink mostly fermented drinks (alcohol) as the water was so contaminated by human effluent.
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Re: Hydrogen powered cars in CA next year

Postby Smurf1976 » Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:54 pm

Cherokee Solar wrote:Yes. I believe the Snowy River Scheme was throttled back earlier this year due to the extended five month drought experienced in Victoria. It didn't actually rain here significantly at the farm between October 12 and February 13 which is virtually unprecedented. It was a very tough time, especially with the constant wind and high temperatures.

The Tassie hydro system is quite complex, being developed over a very long timeframe (1914 - 1994 for the major assets in current use although the first development was 20 years prior to that) as a baseload system with electricity as the primary (and in most cases only) objective. That's as distinct from many systems which have water supply as a primary objective with power generation being intermittent.

There's 53 large dams and about 150 smaller structures (weirs etc) in the Tas system and the catchment area covers a third of the state's total land area (the vast majority of it totally unaffected by power generation - it's just farms, forests, towns etc with the water runoff collected downstream). That goes through 28 main power stations, with 7 final points of discharge (after which it ends up in the ocean).

In very broad terms, there are power stations associated with major storages and those which have relatively little storage. If it's raining - run the power stations with small storages flat out and use those with major storages only to meet peak loads. If it's dry - run the power stations drawing on the major storages heavily and use the others only to meet peak loads.

It's interconnected electrically rather than hydraulically. That is, there is no ability to transfer water between, say, Great Lake (Poatina PS and then feeds into Trevallyn PS downstream) and the Mersey-Forth scheme (with 7 power stations). So it's simply done electrically instead by shifting production around. Building transmission lines and using bigger turbines was a lot cheaper and more practical than putting tunnels everywhere and so that's how it was built.

So whilst the individual power stations have highly variable outputs, put them all together and you've got a very firm, baseload supply. It's technically capable of supplying a constant load 24/7/365 under all weather conditions. In practice it is operated partly baseload, partly to supply peaks since Tas is interconnected with Victoria but the system is certainly capable of firm, baseload supply.

It's no secret that hydro generators in general are running their systems pretty hard at the moment so as to take advantage of higher prices whilst the carbon tax applies. From a purely financial perspective, whatever water they have in storage on 30 June 2014 will lose half it's financial value at midnight so they may as well get rid of as much as possible prior to that time.

None of which has anything to do with hydrogen powered cars in California of course..... :D
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Re: Hydrogen powered cars in CA next year

Postby conklinc » Sun Nov 24, 2013 8:53 am

Smurf,

You wrote: "One invention that would go a long way to fixing these issues is to develop a fuel cell that can be run on conventional liquid fuels (Eg petrol). It sounds like a silly idea until you do some maths. With that sort of efficiency and the use of regenerative braking etc (easy on an electric car, albeit one powered via a fuel cell) then we're looking at under 2 litres / 100 km for a car the size of a Camry. At that level of consumption, and with no toxic nasties in the exhaust, many of the problems associated with oil cease be much of an issue."

How is it that an oil-based fuel cell would not emit carbon? In other words, no pollute the air?

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Re: Hydrogen powered cars in CA next year

Postby Smurf1976 » Sun Nov 24, 2013 11:55 am

A petrol fuel cell would emit water vapour and carbon dioxide in about one quarter the quantity that an internal combustion engine emits those same things assuming that it's installed in an "electric" car with regenerative braking etc.

But since it's a fuel cell, it should not emit any nasties like unburnt fuel, carbon monoxide (toxic to humans) etc. And it wouldn't need a platinum / palladium catalyst (both of those materials being nasty and inevitably released into the air slowly but surely during the life of the vehicle).

Whilst it would emit CO2 and water vapour, neither of those are toxic to humans or animals in the context of normal use of a car. CO2 will harm you only if it's concentrated to the point that you aren't getting enough oxygen. In contrast, carbon monoxide is outright toxic even at relatively low levels and unburnt hydrocarbons lead directly to smog in cities and are associated with various human health issues.

It's not a perfect solution, but it's roughly a 75% fix for the problem and doesn't require any new fuel supply infrastructure. 75% less CO2 emitted from the vehicle. 75% less oil used. No toxic nasties spewed out the exhaust. No need for anything new in terms of fuel supply infrastructure etc. If it could be made to work then it doesn't have the barriers to mass adoption that hydrogen, electric or even natural gas cars do since the fuel supply infrastructure already exists and consumers are very familiar with it.

Obviously it's not a permanent solution but thus far we don't have anything that is. Electric, hydrogen etc would all be largely from fossil fuels for the life of a car built today. Obviously that's not the case if you have an electric car and charge it from off-grid solar, but for most people realistically they'll be charging from the grid.
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Re: Hydrogen powered cars in CA next year

Postby conklinc » Sun Nov 24, 2013 9:59 pm

Interesting. What are the mechanics of such an oil/petrol based fuel cell? I can't conceive of usable energy coming from petrol without "burning." Nor can I conceive of a totally carbon free burn of the fuel. Something fishy would be going on inside such a fuel cell. :? Obviously it hasn't been perfected. What are the issues?

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Re: Hydrogen powered cars in CA next year

Postby davidg » Mon Nov 25, 2013 10:20 am

conklinc wrote:Interesting. What are the mechanics of such an oil/petrol based fuel cell? I can't conceive of usable energy coming from petrol without "burning." Nor can I conceive of a totally carbon free burn of the fuel.

I'll stick my 10cents worth in here, Um carbon is still produced in the form of CO2 that was mentioned, however if a also mentioned improve the efficiency to an extremely high degree then the wastes is reduced enormously that extends the life of the available fuels and since nearly all is turned into useful energy that reduces pollution which I think is where the point about existing fuel was targeted, it could be a good interim step, I really hope we are able to step that way pretty fast it would have to be considered an easy step to do all the infrastructure is already in place.

I suspect a lot of people would be pretty happy with this as much cleaner option, not completely clean but much better, than where we are right now.

Petrol can be used in catalytic reaction, as can ethanol, as can natural gas, as can lpg. Heat is still involved, to produce electricity directly.
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Re: Hydrogen powered cars in CA next year

Postby Smurf1976 » Mon Nov 25, 2013 1:23 pm

What I'm thinking with the petrol fuel cell idea is this.

Like most people, I use a car mostly for relatively short trips (under 100 km return) but want to be able to make longer journeys from time to time. Sometimes, these longer trips will be with relatively little advance notice. Realistically, living in Hobart as a minimum I want to be able to travel anywhere in Tasmania in my car, with the possibility of putting it onto the ferry and driving longer distances in Victoria or other states.

That's not an unusual situation. Eg someone living in the US expects that they can drive between states should they wish to.

There are a lot of fuels that could potentially be used to run a car (or van, truck, bus etc). Petrol, diesel, kerosene, heating oil, LPG, electricity, hydrogen, natural gas or liquid biofuels (ethanol, biodiesel, vegetable oils) being the reasonably practical ones in a technical sense.

But in most places on earth you could park your car literally outside a power station and still not be able to recharge it because the infrastructure for charging electric cars isn't in place*. Electric works if I just want to drive around Hobart, but it doesn't work if I want to travel to Launceston (for example), especially not if I want to come back later the same day. And it sure doesn't work for a Melbourne to Sydney trip.

Natural gas has the same problem. Cities have it, most other places don't. It's just not a practical option for most vehicles although for some (eg council trucks or buses that only operate in the city area) it's viable.

Kerosene - it's used by some military vehicles since they already have jet fuel on hand for aircraft use. But it's not something that's readily available for filling ordinary cars with. Likewise you can't easily get ethanol or heating oil (#1 fuel oil) either. Same goes for things like canola oil - short of buying a whole lot of bottles in a supermarket, there isn't the infrastructure in place to be running cars on it.

A key point is that all these fuels exist as such. There's plenty of electricity and natural gas being used right now. Australia burns through over 100,000 barrels of kerosene every day too. And there's a significant industry growing oil seed crops. But they aren't something you can just drive into a service station and fill your car with.

As for hydrogen, well for most people there's nowhere they can fill a car with it short of building their own electrolysis plant.

All of which limits the adoption of alternative fuel vehicles since they have limitations that petrol / diesel don't. Environmentally friendly perhaps, but the majority of consumers won't buy a car that has too many limitations in use.

But if you use petrol / diesel as the fuel then all those problems go away, the only downside being that they are not "alternative" fuels as such.

But my thinking is that if we could build electric cars, and fit a petrol-operated fuel cell to them, well then that fixes pretty much everything. You have an electric car which can be charged from the grid and used for city driving. And you have effectively unlimited range using a very widely available fuel for longer trips. There's no technical or operational reason why anyone would avoid buying such a car. Add in that it should emit about 75% less CO2 than a conventional petrol engine does (by using a lot less fuel) and to me it seems like a workable pathway. Not perfect, but a big reduction in fuel use that could be implemented quite easily.

I acknowledge that this isn't a perfect solution, it still needs petrol, but it overcomes the barriers to adopting alternative fuels and a 75% or so cut in emissions and oil use isn't bad. :)

*About that * I put in a few paragraphs ago. There is indeed a publicly accessible power point right next to a power station in Tas. It's not unusual to see someone (general public) with an RV parked there around lunch time with an extension lead run across the grass and the kettle, microwave and so on running inside the van. I spotted someone running a clothes dryer beside the road once (literally, they had the dryer sitting outside on the ground next to the RV and an extension lead run across the grass to power it) :shock: But suffice to say that there aren't too many places in Australia where you can just plug something in beside the road and get free power.
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Re: Hydrogen powered cars in CA next year

Postby conklinc » Mon Nov 25, 2013 1:50 pm

Smurf,

Are you talking about a dual fuel vehicle, like the Volt,only with better range on the electric side? What I don't understand is the concept of a petrol based "fuel cell" that doesn't emit carbon pollution. Seems to me to get energy out of petrol you have to burn it, and it hard to burn it with sufficiently high efficiency to e eliminate pollution.

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Re: Hydrogen powered cars in CA next year

Postby Smurf1976 » Mon Nov 25, 2013 8:02 pm

I'm not saying that petrol can be used without producing CO2. My argument is that it would be better to deploy fairly quickly something that can achieve a 75% or so reduction, rather than taking a much longer time pursuing a slightly bigger reduction via hydrogen.

If completely oxidised (ie burnt), petrol will produce CO2 (carbon dioxide), H20 (water) and nothing else apart from any non-hydrocarbon compounds present in the petrol (eg petrol used to have lead added, and until a few years ago it also contained significant amounts of sulphur but these days that is no longer the case).

Carbon dioxide - it's a "greenhouse" gas but apart from that it's not a problem. It's not toxic in any likely concentration, it doesn't cause cancer or smog and you're breathing the stuff out right now anyway. Global warming is the only real problem with it.

Water - not a problem in any practical car usage scenario.

What is a problem is that a conventional petrol engine does not fully oxidise the fuel. Instead of producing CO2 and H20 in the exhaust, it also produces CO (carbon monoxide) and an assortment of hydrocarbon (HC) compounts, some of which are simply unburnt petrol vapours and others are ones that form in the combustion process (ie the unburnt petrol coming out the exhaust is chemically different to the petrol that went in due to partial combustion).

Carbon monoxide - toxic stuff. Even a low concentration is harmful to health, and it doesn't take a lot to actually kill someone. This is the classic "exhaust suicide" scenario - it's the carbon monoxide that causes the quick death.

Unburnt hydrocarbons - some of them aren't too bad (though they cause smog) but some are implicated in various cancers. Nasty stuff.

But a fuel cell, since it fully oxidises the fuel, should produce only CO2 and H20 without all the other nasties. So you have an emission that whilst it still contains carbon and still adds to climate change, it won't directly harm health and doesn't cause smog. And even with the CO2, there would be about 75% less of it due to the greatly increased energy efficiency of such a system.

My thought is that you'd have an electric car built with an electric range of, say, 100km which is sufficient for most day to day use. Having a smallish range keeps down the cost of batteries and keeps down the weight too. Then you have the fuel cell to generate electricity for when the batteries aren't sufficient (long trips). In all cases the car is "electric" in operation, electric motor etc, but you have a fuel cell as a means of generating power when there's no power point available thus overcoming the range and charging infrastructure problems.

Someone living in a city who just commutes to work each day would very rarely use the fuel cell since they'd be charging with electricity overnight. But the benefit is that they can drive 200, 500 or however many km non-stop should they wish to.

In short, what I'm really saying is to take the concept of a battery + hydrogen fuel cell car and make it a battery + petrol fuel cell instead. Sure, the petrol would emit some CO2 but it's still a huge saving and overcomes the fuel infrastructure problem.

I see this concept as a "stepping stone" to the future and not as a permanent solution as such. The big downside, of course, is that petrol fuel cells aren't really a fully developed technology. It has been done, so the concept is proven, but nobody seems ready to go into mass production as yet. But then hydrogen fuel cells still have limitations too, as do all fuel cells.
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Re: Hydrogen powered cars in CA next year

Postby conklinc » Tue Nov 26, 2013 6:31 am

Smurf,

Makes sense, thats for sure. But of course, like any good dialogue, answers only bring on more questions. :lol: What sort of efficiencies are going to arise out of the EV with petrol fuel cells? Of course with local driving and recharging, it is going to depend on sourcing of the recharge. With the ICE only being at around 35% efficient, I assume a fuel cell has some "room" to work with in terms of potential efficiency. EV's are inherently more efficient as a "machine" simply because they are simplicity itself. Fewer moving parts, less energy transfer needed. Right? Also, you mentioned a while back that hydrogen and other fuel sourced cars can only go about 30,000 miles compared to over 150,000 for ICE vehicles. Of course you can do more than that with ICE's if you take care of them. What is the limiting factor here with the other vehicles?

The ICE has a rather unfair advantage here simply because its been well over a hundred years in development and improvements. Ditto with petrol and other distillates themselves. ;) Where would we be if such efforts had been put into further development and improvement of electricity storage :shock:

While global warming is nothing to dismiss casually, I can see your point. Increasing efficiency relative to the amount of carbon emissions given off as well eliminating other emissions can only be a good thing.

Another off-the-wall question. Sometimes I encounter a question about solar panel construction. Its not a particularly clean industry. Lots of chemical nastys used in the process. I'm told that energy-wise at least, most panels replicate themselves in a year or so (a very broad statement, IMHO) I wonder about the same issues for the newer technology batteries, the Lif-Po4, the cobalts, and others? I assume there are some significant nastys in their manufacturing too? What about recycling issues with them?

Inquiring minds wanna know! Smurf? . . . anyone else out there?

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